Tuesday, June 20, 2006

an iota of sense emerges

this page has often discussed how the tribune company uses its media outlets to manage expectations and, in so doing, often tells their hand. to the extent that what is written in the papers today is intended to be done tomorrow, one has to take heart that finally cub management has been compelled to see the light about dusty baker.

Baker isn't gone yet. But with the Cubs floundering at 15 games under .500 in the final year of his four-year deal, it will be difficult for general manager Jim Hendry to justify giving Baker a contract extension-even though most assumed it was a fait accompli at the outset of the season.

... [M]ost thought an extension was already in the works and the Cubs were simply waiting for the right time to announce it. Hendry repeatedly has said Baker is not to blame for the Cubs' ailments, but unless the team has a miraculous turnaround, Baker's job could be in jeopardy. Hendry likely will have to wait until the end of the season if he wants to re-sign Baker.

Baker has a 283-272 record as Cubs manager after Monday night's win, and his .510 winning percentage makes him only the fourth Cubs manager during the last 40 years to have a winning record, joining Leo Durocher (.504), Jim Frey (.519) and Don Zimmer (.507) But over the last two seasons, the Cubs are 106-125, and they're a combined 35½ games behind St. Louis since the start of 2005.

this page saw a critical moment pass without change three weeks ago following what looked to be (and still looks like) the moment of emotional crescendo following which the rest of the season would be mere denouement and disintegration.

this page has an inkling that the decision to keep baker has already been made by jim hendry and andy macfail and is basically immutable, the organization caring nothing and indeed openly despising its sheepish, slavish fanbase -- expressing its contempt yet again is surely not difficult for such an insular regime.

surely, it hopes otherwise -- if there is no accountability, no impetus, no sincerity of effort here, after all, could one reasonably expect that there will ever be any under macfail? almost certainly not. but hendry has shat out one of the great franchise losers of the last few decades (which is saying something) -- and for it, he was rewarded with a contract extension. should we expect any greater culpability for baker?

but it is possible now that the tribune, barely sensate, has been driven yet again to the peak of angst as the team has fallen steadily further back, consecutive sweeps suffered at the hands of houston and detroit cumulating in the instant and shocking submergence of what flotsam of hope that might have remained in sunday's first inning. the day's result drove the cubs to their low point of the year to date, the 15th of 16 national league teams, 15 back of saint louis and 15 under .500.

ridding the team of the incompetent baker would be just the first step, but is an entirely necessary one. this team's veterans are on the verge of being sold off in an effort to make the accidental youth movement into a more intentional variety for the remainder of this year at least. perhaps the most egregious of baker's manifold failings is his incapacity to handle youth well. he clearly doesn't fit into what is coming.

so this page takes some encouragement from today's paper. it remains to be seen if jim hendry has the fortitude to finally begin to do his job well; he's certainly showed little such capacity before, but firing baker would be heartening.

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